Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Lithuania President Re-elected As Nation Faces Russian Threat

Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Lithuania President Re-elected As Nation Faces Russian Threat

Nicholas Zalewski
President Gitanas Nauseda easily won reelection in the second round of the Lithuanian presidential election. Source: Ints Kalnins, Reuters

Lithuania just held the second round of the Presidential election and incumbent Gitanas Nauseda was victorious with 74,5 percent of the vote. He is described as being more economically liberal, supportive of a welfare state, yet socially is more conservative when it comes to issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and abortion. He ran as an independent as he’s not officially registered with a political party, although he did join the communist party in 1988, two years before Lithuania broke free of the Soviet Union. He clarifies this was a mistake, and he only did so in order to increase his opportunities as a scientist just after graduating. This is clearly understood by Lithuanians however, they did not hold it against him. In Lithuania, displaying communist symbols and performing the national anthem of the Lithuania SSR along with Nazi symbols, and the anthems of Nazi Germany and the USSR are illegal. From his first term in office as well, this is clear that this past mistake is not part of his present political ideology.

While Nauseda can celebrate his victory, it will have to be short as he already has his work cut out for him. Lithuania has always been cautious of Russia since independence, but tensions have risen since Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 and Lithuanians fear that they can be another target. This topic dominated the presidential election and both Nauseda and his rival, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė favored an increase in defense expenditure from 2,75 to 3 percent of the national GDP. This would put the entire nation an entire percentage point above the NATO minimum of expense expenditure of 2 percent of GDP.

This is a good thing for Lithuania as in the scenario, Donald Trump wins the election this upcoming November in the United States, the topic of numerous NATO member states not spending enough on defense will likely become an issue once again, particularly as Russia has become a threat to Europe once again. While spending money on defense means the nation has less to spend on other priorities, unfortunately Lithuania and other NATO member states have no choice due to the threat of Russian aggression. While European nations can lament having less financial resources to spend on education, infrastructure and healthcare, these priorities suddenly become meaningless in the scenario that Russia invades and Lithuania was not prepared.

LGBT Rights

Map of the legal status of same sex marriage and civil unions in Europe. Source: Euronews

What is interesting about this election is that while Nauseda is economically liberal, he vehemently opposes civil unions for LGBTQ+ couples. Lithuania is one of the last EU member states that does not offer civil unions to people from the queer community. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister who is conservative, supports the idea of civil unions. Nauseda argues that civil unions are not feasible under the current Lithuanian constitution because they are too similar to marriage, which the constitution prohibits for LGBTQ+ couples. Despite her support for LGBTQ+ couples, this was not enough to help her win the election and Šimonytė did significantly worse than when the two first faced off in 2019 when she won a third of the vote.

The Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) has already started to discuss legislation approving civil unions this year, yet a majority of parliament members voted to remove it from the Spring agenda. Interestingly enough, a majority of people who voted to remove the bill from the agenda come from left-wing political parties that would traditionally support this legislation in other nations, meanwhile a majority of the conservatives in Lithuania actually support it, apart from 13 members of the ruling coalition who also voted to remove the bill from the agenda.

Russia Attempts To Extend Sea Borders

Map of exclusive economic areas in Baltic Sea. Source: Financial Times

Concerns in Lithuania over potential threats from Russia are not just a figment of imagination. Russia has proposed a draft decree which would revise its sea border in the Baltics. Unsurprisingly, Russia would try to change the sea borders for its benefit. The current border has been in place since 1985 but with Russia’s invasions of Ukraine, it is not a shock that Russia is once again trying to seize more territory. What makes this situation different than Ukraine however is that Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Lativa, and Lithuania which can all be potentially impacted by Russia trying to change the border are all NATO member states. The draft legislation was deleted, and a source told Tass, a Russian media company, that there is no current intention to pursue changing the border. Unfortunately for nations that border Russia, the nations intentions often times are unclear until the last minute. As this document was even published in the first place, nations bordering the Baltic Sea will have to be prepared for potential Russian aggression in an attempt to seize control of more of the sea by Kaliningrad.


This election was a decisive victory for incumbent President Nauseda. Unfortunately for him, there is too much to be done to spend too much time celebrating. Instead, President Nauseda must collaborate with other Lithuanian and European politicians in order to ensure that Lithuania can withstand any threats from Russia. With regards to Russia, there has to be hope that the nation’s aggression changes with future generations who realize that antagonizing European nations hurts the nation’s development more than it benefits it. Putin’s latest invasion of Ukraine catapulted Ukraine into the limelight as a future EU member state. Before the invasion, there was limited discussion of even the possibility of granting Ukraine candidate status to the EU. While Putin is stuck in the past and dreams of rebuilding the Soviet Union, Europe moves into the future, leaving him behind.

Please Read The Following For More Information:

Baccini, Federico. “Lithuania chooses continuity. President Nausėda re-elected for a second term” EU news. 27 May 2024.

Eggert, Konstantin. “Lithuanian President Nauseda: A socialist and moralist” Deutsche Welle 26 May 2024.

“Incumbent Lithuanian president reelected in landslide win over PM” AP News. 27 May 2024.

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Let’s Tune In To The EU…

by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min